Into the Abyss: Werner Herzog has bewitched me once again with another searing documentary. Much like his previous endeavors, Herzog firmly plants himself in the middle, refusing to elicit any form of bias, which is impressive considering the film’s subject matter: the damning consequences of a senseless murder. Herzog’s camera captures a collection of grieving families who are looking for some semblance of justice and understanding. While the distraught families reconstruct their lives, the two culprits who robbed the families of their loved ones wither away in jail. One of which patiently waits on death row. It’s an interesting dichotomy between culprit and victim that Herzog presents. Ultimately, Herzog forces us, with a plethora of evidence and testimonials, to determine the validity of capital punishment.
Platform: DVD and Streaming
Queue Ranking: Honestly, if you’re interested in documentaries, Into the Abyss deserves your queue’s top spot. Into the Abyss finds Herzog dissecting the legitimacy behind capital punishment by invasively exploring its ramifications on everyone involved in the process. It’s a gut wrenching watch, but one that is enlightening.
Repulsion: Roman Polanski’s first English feature is a maddening piece of filmmaking, as he impressively uses sound and varying camera techniques to entrench us in the mind of a sexually repressed woman on the verge of breaking down. The woman Polanski tears down is Carol Ledoux (Catherine Deneuve), a beautiful, yet meek woman, who constantly feels the burning gaze of men upon her. We know little about Carol’s past, but her vacant eyes suggest she carries a heavy burden. As the film slowly burns away, Carol’s fragile psyche disintegrates. Sexual nightmares help create an escalating level of paranoia that finds Carol, as well as the audience, slipping further and further away from reality.
Queue Ranking: You should firmly place this in your top ten because Polanski has crafted a memorably demented film. Its surreal imagery ratchets up the tension, while adding a great deal of thematic weight. Not to mention, it’s a morbidly sexy watch, especially with Catherine Deneuve front and center.
Your Sisters Sister: Here is one film I regret not seeing immediately once it hit theaters last year. But I redeemed myself a few nights ago by taking it for a spin, and I was absolutely blown away by it. Honestly, the film’s plot isn’t much to write home about. Jack (Mark Duplass) is an emotionally stunted man seeking a way out of his personal malaise. His friend Iris (Emily Blunt) suggests he spends some alone time at her family’s cabin. Upon arriving there, Jack meets Iris’ sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), and then comedic trouble ensues. Like I said, the plot isn’t convoluted or grand, but within the basic framework, director Lynn Shelton extracts a great deal of humor and genuine emotion.
Queue Ranking: Fuck it. Place this one at number one. Honestly, there were few films released in 2012 that were as charming and involving as Your Sisters Sister, and you’d be foolish to miss out.